The U.S. House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to provide an additional $40 billion in assistance to Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Capitol Police)
Iowa’s D.C. delegation joined together this week to give bipartisan support for more sanctions against Russia and aid for Ukraine as the war continues to devastate the eastern European country.
Iowa lawmakers also addressed issues related to school transgender policy, inflation’s toll on small business, cattle pricing, telehealth and more.
Bipartisan legislation would seize Russian oligarch assets
All four of Iowa’s representatives voted for legislation that encourages seizure of Russian oligarch assets to help pay for Ukraine’s recovery.
The Asset Seizure and Ukraine Reconstruction Act passed the U.S. House 417 to 8 on Wednesday. It would help fund post-war reconstruction, humanitarian aid, refugee resettlement and military aid to Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “unprovoked war in Ukraine has caused untold suffering and destruction,” Iowa Rep. Randy Feenstra said in a statement. “By confiscating and selling Russian oligarchs’ lucrative assets, we can begin to fund Ukraine’s recovery and support the innocent people who have lost everything in just a few short months. Putin’s aggression must be met with American strength and leadership, and I am proud to have voted for this critical legislation.”
All four House members from Iowa voted Thursday for bipartisan legislation that would use the framework of a World War II-era program to allow the federal government to lend and lease military equipment to Ukraine. The House sent the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act to President Biden’s desk on a vote of 417-10.
Hinson opposes local school district transgender policy
The Linn-Mar school district voted this week to adopt a new policy for transgender students. Students may create a “gender support plan” with their preferred name and pronouns. The plan will also determine which restrooms and changing rooms the student should use.
The Gazette reports that students in seventh grade or above will have priority over their parents in crafting the plans. That means a transgender teenager could attend school as their preferred gender, even if their guardians disapprove.
School officials said the policy has already been in place informally. The school board voted 5-2 to officially adopt it.
Dozens of parents spoke in opposition to the plan at a Monday meeting, according to KCRG. Rep. Ashley Hinson voiced her opposition differently: with a press release from her congressional office.
Hinson said the policy was part of a nationwide trend “of parents being boxed out of decisions that should be made between a parent and their child, not between a school and a child.” Her two sons attend Linn-Mar schools.
“As their mom, I need to know about, and be actively involved in, decisions that impact them,” Hinson said. “I oppose this policy, and others like it, that wrongly circumvent and undermine parents.”
School transparency has been a central issue for Iowa Republicans. State lawmakers have rallied around proposals to mandate additional reporting on classroom materials, library books and curriculum plans.
Miller-Meeks: Expand Title 42 to prevent drugs
Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks and Rep. Debbie Lesko, an Arizona Republican, introduced a bill this week to expand the powers of the controversial Title 42 order.
Under current law, Title 42 allows the U.S. to expel migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into the country.
Miller-Meeks’ proposal would instruct the U.S. to also reject people if allowing them into the country would increase the spread of dangerous narcotics, opiates, fentanyl or other illegal drugs.
“The Biden Administration must forward a thoughtful and detailed plan to protect our border, support law enforcement, and keep our communities safe,” Miller-Meeks said in a statement. “Until that time, Title 42 should remain in place.”
The bill is unlikely to gain any traction in the U.S. House, which is controlled by Democrats.
The Biden administration announced their intentions to end Title 42 in May. A federal judge temporarily blocked that order.
Hinson called the judge’s decision “a victory for border security and for the safety of Americans.”
Axne introduces telehealth bill
U.S. Rep Cindy Axne introduced a bill to allow telehealth services to continue even as COVID-19 precautions end. Axne said telehealth made it easier for rural and older Iowans to access medical care.
“Telehealth visits allow Iowa’s health care providers to meet people where they are, and I am proud to lead this effort to make sure we allow Iowans to continue using vital telehealth services,” she said in a statement.
Grassley and Durbin push for accountability on DHS sexual harassment
Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, asking Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to respond to allegations that he delayed or downplayed reports of sexual harassment within the department.
“Sexual harassment and misconduct in agency ranks always demand immediate action,” the letter reads. “Any efforts by an OIG to obscure or downplay the seriousness or pervasiveness of the issue, or to improperly delay releasing evidence of misconduct, are inappropriate.”
The Senate on Thursday passed a resolution introduced by Grassley and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to recognize National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.
Ernst seeks answers on inflation from Small Business Administration
Sen. Joni Ernst wrote to Small Business Administrator Isabel Guzman, seeking details on the agency’s plans to support small businesses suffering from inflation.
“I write to express my concern on the economic impact of record high inflation levels facing small businesses across Iowa and America. This issue has carved deeply into the economic security of small businesses, impacting their ability to provide paychecks to working families; especially those in rural communities …”
Among other questions, Ernst’s letter asked how SBA plans to address the impact of inflation with regard to small business programs and how to address the “disproportionate impact” of inflation on rural small businesses.
Inflation has created a “hidden value added tax” on our small businesses in Iowa. I’m bringing their concerns to the Biden admin—and calling on the SBA to address this crisis. pic.twitter.com/tZoQDyE70V
— Joni Ernst (@SenJoniErnst) April 28, 2022
Iowa lawmakers address cattle pricing, meatpacker profits
A pair of hearings in the House and Senate this week highlighted what cattle producers say is an inequitable system that shortchanges them while meatpackers rake in growing profits.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry began its consideration Tuesday of two bills co-sponsored by Grassley addressing transparency in cattle-buying arrangements and creating a new U.S. Department of Agriculture office to monitor for anticompetitive actions in the industry.
Feenstra and Axne both participated in a House Agriculture Committee hearing Wednesday featuring testimony by the four big U.S. meatpackers.
“Today, consumers are literally paying more for their beef, producers are receiving less for their cattle, and yet your four companies’ net incomes have reached record highs,” Axne said during the hearing. “This is simply not sustainable for producers or consumers. I’ve heard from too many in Iowa who are worried about their ability just to stay in operation and being able to pass it down to the next generation, just like their parents before them, so something has to change.”
— Kathie Obradovich contributed to this report
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